Saturday, February 11, 2012

a quick nine months

hello everybody!

so i know it has been a long long time since my last update, and for that i apoligize, however, here i go.

life in site has been great. i am as adapted as i think i could get and things are starting to fall into place when it comes to projects. one of the communities i am working with has 24 houses and is very compact. they are way organized and have had the goal of potable water for a long time now. i am working with an organization here in nicaragua named water for life to come and give technical advice about how we can go about istalling this type of system. the university of iowa has an undergraduate environmental engineering class that is starting on this water project as well and their plan will be available for us in may (as the semester comes to a close). the logistics of funding are underway but have not been completely determined. i have begun playing in a baseball league in this community as well. i have been the secondbasemen and pinch runner thus far. we are in first place with a stunning record of 8-2.. i think.. anyway tomorrow ill be playing again. a goal outside of the water is a fence for the baseball field. during the rainy season, it isnt uncommon to find cattle gazing around the field and this leaves perfect hoove prints that turn ground balls into pop flys. so, i am working on finding funding for putting a fence in so that we can more easily maintain the field. the field is one of the nicest around so teams from nearby enjoy visiting. we play on sundays so this is perfect for the women to bring there homemade foods and sell at the ball fields as well.

the community up the hill from me already has a water distribution system and seem to have fewer necessities than my other sites. however, i just took a youth from this community to a drip irrigation class in managua last weekend and we recieved a ten by ten meter drip irrigation kit. our goal is to help generate incomes in the dry season. this being said we have to have a water source for our garden. so, beings that this community has water springs year round, we are going to start preparing the dirt to make our garden next week.

in my community, i just completed my first paper written 100 percent in spanish. it was a request for small project assistence from USAID. we have a well that is in need of reparation and adding a few more washing stations and showers with another water source could save people a lot of time. the well was just built about 4 or 5 years ago but was abandoned after the string broke. so, now we are hoping to recieve funds or materials and also to hire an organization to come out of give a training course on how to repair a well. if all goes as planned, a counterpart and myself should have the opportunity to travel to managua later this month and present to the water sanitation sector of the SPA comitee and hopefully recieve the funds next month.

for all of the communities i am hoping to get an application in for an improved oven and stove project for the majority of the homes. this would reduce the amount of wood needed to maintain a fire all day long while at the same time minimize the amount of smoke inhaled everyday by using tin chimneys to take it outside.

so today marks 9 months in country. that indicates that one third of my time here is done. the first nine months have certainly been a challenge but i couldnt imagine where else i could have already created as many of great memories as i have. my spanish is coming along ( much better than i imagined) and the friendships i have started will last my lifetime. i now have a guitar in site so i am spending time pretending to learn new chords and strum different patterns but ive concluded that listening to music is more of my talent than playing it. regardless it allows for good laughs and something fun for my host siblings and me to do. i have a 10 k coming up next month so for my training i have started running every morning just before the sun peaks around its corner to begin its daily frying fest on our tin roofs. most of the dogs are used to me by now so their chasing me isnt a problem. i am continuing to read book after book. there are days ill read 5 pages and others 95, it just depends on the day. i havent written on this since i have booked my ticket home! ill be home for a few weeks in later may to mid june then off to a wedding in new orleans for a few days before my return to nicaragua. anyway i have a lot planned in the meantime so i know time will continue to fly by as fast as it already has.

hope this message finds you all in good spirits! miss you and love you


Saturday, October 29, 2011

settling in..

hey everyone! life is treating me quite well here in matagalpa... i am getting closer and closer with the communities i am working in.. since i have written last, my schedule from day to day has varied.. I built a garden with the kids in my site and now i am hoping to start a class with them about taking care of gardens and planting different types of food.. every saturday i am in a nearby community helping in the high school, usually with english.. i am about to start clearing a field for starting a tball league next month.. it would be nice to have a team in every communityand get together every weekend..  as for possible projects im looking at getting a pump for a well by this next summer.. i am going to be starting a youth group just for developing relationships for now.. but when i start building stoves or ovens im hoping a few of them can take interest and start building independently.. ill hopefully be joining the local baseball team next month.. i just spent my last week back down in carazo with my training family for our language taller.. 8 hours of spanish for 4 days straight.. it went well and my grammer was certainly improved.. matagalpa is my favorite city in nicaragua hands down.. sorry this was way short.. but gotta catch the bus back to site.. hope all is well and take care

  much love .. maclaine

Monday, September 19, 2011

new address

hey everybody! just got a po box. the address is

maclaine sorden
aparto postal # 22
nicaragua, central america

hope all is well! i wont be back to a computer until next month so looking forward to catching up then! take care and hasta la vista!

Monday, September 12, 2011

life in matagalpa

so sorry this has taken so long but here i go..

life here is exactly what i expected as a volunteer.. because i am working in 4 communities, everyday i am walking from house to house in different comunities to present and introduce myself.. usually ill stay and help clean beans or shuck corn as well.. the men are always working in the fields and the women are around the house working.. days here are from 530 in the morning until 7 at night or so.. i am usually asleep by 830 or 9.. every night i am reading a new book.. i have discovered a new passion for reading and it is definately a stress releiver as well.. i am about to start building my own room with bricks and cement attached to my families house.. i am getting way closer to them as well.. everynihgt i eat dinner with my brother while laying in the hammock and talking.. my family thinks i am crazy for drinking coffee without  sugar with almost every meal.. ive started to clear a plot of land with a machete for planting a garden.. im going to have a class with the little kids in the community about how to plant and maintain a garden.. every saturday i am teaching english in the high school.. the kids are excited for that.. the english teacher knows quite a bit but we are helpiong one another out.. the other communities are much smaller and i have better relationships with the people.. i am as healthy right now as i ever have been.. im usually covered in sweat head to toe every afternoon.. last week i threw my sweat drenched shirt on a line out back to dry and the cows here love the salt.. needless to say the shirt was chewed up and spat out and will now serve as a rag.. because we are in winter right now and it is wet season there is a river in my back yard.. which means there are bastante mosquitoes everynight but also means i can do my laundry without having to walk down to the well.. i usually look for a rock without a significant amount of algae for washing and then beat my clothes into it for a while.. three weeks ago or so i walked into my room with my brother and we discovered a teranchela on the wall.. my brother took my waterbottle and threw it at teh spider obsiously missing and then we watched the thing crawl over to my bed.. so.. i remade my bed and shook everything out to look for him and didnt have any luck.. my brother assured me he was scared and went outside and i was sure that was wrong.. anyway  i couldnt find him so i went back to organizing my stuff.. i reached down on top of one of my suitcases to grab a pair of swim trunks and sure enough the little guy crawled right across my knuckles.. luckly i wasnt bit  and within a few seconds he was on the bottom of my sandel.. generally ill try and grab the insect reptile or animal and take it back outside but i couldnt manage to do that with the araƱa... we have 4 new puppies that sleep outside of my door at night.. there is a strong shot that one of them is going to be mine.. my littlest brother is bound set on getting me a girlfriend so every time a girl from the age of 14 to 30 walks by he inquires on whether or not i am interested.. last night i got the point across that i have to talk with  a girl before determining whether or not i like her.. ha.. he is a hell of a little kid and some days i dont know what i would do without him there.. my older brother and i have had nights of talking about money religion politics life and certainly culture before dozing off.. one night we stayed up till 930 talking and i couldnt remember the last time i stayed up that late ha...  i am certainly enjoying my days here and religiously writing in my journal about al lof my experiences.. yesterday i went to visit another volunteer who has been here a full year come november and were going to start some projects together later this month.. she worked for the southwest conservation corps as well in colorado so we have plenty to talk about.. were going to be building 46 stoves for different families in her villiage.. its a great opportunity for practicing for my community as well.. i have been visiting a tutora in another community a few afternoons every week and i am starting to become better friends with her and her brothers too.. life is so simple here and an experience like this certainly pushes ones limits.. i have found a maclaine that is striving for a hell of a lot more patience understanding and compassion.. i remember some of the littlest things that got on my nerves a few years back that i am looking back now and laughing at.. more than anything i feel so obligated to continue giving back becuase of the simple blessings that have got me here... like an education  system.. schools with resources such as paper.. not having to pay to recieve study guides in high school.. having running water.. not worrying about a food shortage next summer.. being able to understand simple mathematics.. going to college.. having a supportive and able family.. playing in an organized league.. just everything that i have had at my fingertips is a dream for these people.. for people here, welcoming in a stranger on the street for a meal is a norm.. helping chop down limbs for firewood is a given regardless of age.. grandmothers carrying buckets of water 100 yards to their houses and back to the well is the way that they survive.. all of this labor intensive work is just normal.. life in the campo is way different than life in the cities.. all of that said ive had some of the best laughs here and some of the most welcoming smiles that i have ever experienced in my life.. there are days i would do anything for a cold ipa beer.. or a day at an iowa cubs game.. or a day on the lake with some college buddies.. or just a nice run on paved roads but realizing that all of these things are priveledges and not rights makes me appreciate all i have been given my entire life.. i am doing well and everyday growing as  a person.. hope that every one reading this is doing  as well as i am and miss you all very much!

take care and much love,

a quote that hit home a few nights back from the book the art of happiness-
the very struggle of life is what makes us who we are

Saturday, July 16, 2011

and my site is ....

a small villiage of 40 houses in the department of matagalpa!! i am going to be working in four comunities all with a few hundred people.. i spent last week getting to know my site and talking with the members of the community.. there are 4 kids in my new family.. i am extremely excited.. but the place is quite poor.. its a new villiage and there are not a whole lot of resources available.. ill be riding one of my dads horses from place to place for work.. right now.. all the women in the communities are really wanting improved stoves  and ovens so that is what it looks like ill be doing to start my service.. right now women and young girls are cookng in the house and the smoke from the fire lingers throughout the house all day.. this is creating respiratory problems for everyone... what ill be doing is constructing and teaching the construction of stoves and ovens that are more efficient.. smoke will go directly outside and the amount of wood used will be at the least cut in half.. this will help with the nearby deforestation and erosion problems as well!... there are few goods able to be produced within the community itself.. with the ovens, women will be able to make much more food inmuch less time and possible start a business selling rosquilllas.. little corn snacks that are popular with coffee.. or anything else that they desire..

i live next door to the teacher of the primary school and she is thrilled with my interest in 1 a school garden and 2 painting a world map... a school garden and compost will be a very easy way to teach kids about how to grow different vegetables and what is needed for constructing a patio garden.. also.. once my spanish improves i could talk with them about environmental processes and possibly teach  a science class once a week! wishful thinking for now... withthe world map, some kids know where nicaragua is but many do not.. and giving them a picture of the world, rather than just latin america, they certainly wouldnt be able to find nicaragua.. nicaragua is roughly the size of iowa and is the largest country in central america.. when i show them iowa compared to the size of the states in general.. they are in awe.. some kids.. especially in rural areas would have trouble naming a country outside of costa rica, honduras, spain and the us.... anyway.. incredible opportunities to help shape the minds of kids and give them a better understanding of the world we live in..

there is a seed bank that is already underway amongst local farmers and they really want my help with simple mathmatical help and organization when it comes to meetings.. a seed bank is like a cooperative where every group member decides he or she is going to donate a manzana of land worth of beans or corn to a community pile.. when someone is short on seeds or cannot afford to buy seeds for a season becuase of too much rain or too little from the previous harvest they are able to use bank seeds to plant their next season.. whatever is taken out must be repaid within the time set by the group.. plus interest.. which is also determined by the group..  it is a very good way to enable people helping people but like any system, if abused will fall apart.. anyway very motivated people so my job will be quite easy.. i have a counterpart in an agricultural organization here... inta... and she is going to be great help.. she is very educated with all of the farming problems and what to do in most situations as well so i could not be more fortunate for that..

other possible opportunidades include starting a tee ball league, holding classes for mothers about nutrition, general hygiene especially with teeth, construction of buildings for comunity gatherings, and much more that im sure will come as relationships form..

there is electricity in my site although it goes in and out.. i have cell phone service but there is no running water.. a latrine for the bathroom.. and a community well with 2 showers for the community to share.. becuase there is no running water most of the women are good at walking with 5 gallon buckets balanced on their heads.. to and from the well to their homes.. although this is awfully hard definately adds a social element to the villiage that those with running water do not have.. everyone is extremely friendly in the streets and often times youll have 2 or 3 conversations within a 50 meter walk.. its common for kids to be barefoot.. although most have access to boots.. when all of us play soccer the boots serve as shoes and shin guards as well ha .. for entertainment kids usually take turns racing eachother up and down the hill in front of my house while hitting a rusted rim of a bike tire with a stick all the way... my house is brick with a tin roof.. soon to have a hammock as well as a gift of thanks from me!

everyone in my community is very catholic.. and theyre thrilled that i went to a catholic school as well.. the second day in my comunity i went to mass and the homily was changed to thanking me and welcoming me to the community.. that night.. after word got out that i was in town.. i was eating my usual rice and beans for dinner and i looked up and must have seen 12 to 15 little kids peering their heads around the doorway and windows to catch a glimpse of me ha... most were shocked and some brave enough to talk to me but most ran and came back after i resumed eating.. the next day most were drawing pictures in my notebooks and leading me by my hand house to house to meet their friends.. they also loved to take me to all of thier favorite places to hang out .. like special rocks or trees and tell me about shortcuts to get to and from homes.. there are many fruit trees and kids are always looking for friends to go eat mamon with.. one little kid named william.. thrilled that my dad has the same name ha.. took me up to a bean farm where we talked about the comunity, ate fruit, and looked over all the hills to see mountains in the background.. incredible views..

i couldnt feel more safe and taken care of in my site.. at the meeting where i met all the members of the seed bank they spent a little bit of time bickering about why i was going to live in one community for the full two years.. they all want me for 6 months each.. ha.. after a little more discussion my host dad.. valerio stood up and said this kid .. 22 years old.. has left his family everything he knows to come help out the people of our communities.. he barely spoke any spanish coming down here .. the least we can do is make him as comfortable as possible and let him make decisions about where he is going to live...  about that same time my brother.. johnny gave me a pat on the back in sign of support for me and there wasnt another word spoken about where i should be living..

i couldnt be happier or feel luckier with being placed in pueblo nuevo.. it is perfect for me

the closest town with internet is atleast 25 to 30 minutes on a bus so i imagine once a month maybe twice will be the max with regards to writing in this blog.. however, i am writing in a journal so that i am able to remember everything and when i do have the opportunity to write it will be packed with information!

hope everyone is doing well! take care

love you all,

maclen suarez

ha.. (nica name)

Monday, June 27, 2011

a taste of matagalpa

last week was the best week i have had yet as a peace corps trainee! it was our tech week.. five other aspirantes and i went to see how a volunteer in san isidro, matagalpa lives.. in our time there we learned how to build an oven, stove and biodigester with simple, available resources.. it was great to see how laid back life will be here in another month.. we were lucky enough to be in the mountains for the week.. the community had at least 300 people spread out along the dirt road leading up the mountian.. the culture is different there as compared to the city, even the small pueblo that i am in now offers many more opportunitites.. not meaning to imply that the people in the city are happier.. for a homework assignment we were sent off in the community to practice our spanish by talking with anyone we encounter and inquiring about a typical day for a person living in the campo.. i met a farmer named antonio.. hell of a nice guy.. as i walked by his house i greeted him and stumbled through asking whether or not he had time to talk with me about his lifestyle.. before i could finish the sentence he was on his way to grabbing a plastic chair stacked behind him.. (everyone has atleast 3 or 4 plastic chairs on thier porches for opportunities to talk with anyone willing).. he invited me to come in and sit.. we talked about his days and how they revolve around his farming; he owns 15 manzanas.. which is a great amount for a poor farmer ( a manzana is 100 paces by 100 paces) and primarily works with corn and beans.. i played with his 3 year old also named antonio and helped him peel his mango, i talked with his daughter, who has 9 years as she sat in the hammock across the room.. as we continued to make conversation more and more children began to gather in the doorstep because it isnt everyday a gringo is in their villiage.. upon leaving antonio insisted i take a mango with me for the walk back to the house i was staying in.. i politely accepted his gift and before it was said and done i had a sack filled with every type of fruit he had in his back yard.. on the way back i encountered a kid named laker.. only to later find out that he is named laker because his dad likes the los angelos lakers--

the last night of tech week all of the trainees met up in the city of esteli for a few lectures and more importantly to start our site selections and get an update on our language progress.. so far i have moved up 2 sublevels and only need to move up one more in order to swear in here in another month.. so that is great news!  as for the possible sites i went back on my gut feeling and told them to place me as rural as possible.. one of my choices has just 25 families living up in the mountains and i know i would be able to see the honduras border from there .. another site is amongst a bunch of different coffee farms .. also in the mountains.. to sum all my selections up i wouldnt be surprised if i do not have access to the internet, dont have running water, and have very poor, if any cell phone range.. and candles may be the closest thing to electricity i can get... however it is a very rare find to have all of these things missing..  i will know my site on july 5th!

i spent all day on saturday reading a book and talking with the family becuase it downpoured the entire day.. it was the perfect relaxing day i needed after tech days.. yesterday, after mass of course, we headed to the beach and i got to swim in the pacific all afternoon! it was incredible.. although it would be nice to be posted up along the coast and able to surf any day.. im pretty sure that ill be headed to the mountains.. today i started week seven of training meaning i had a new spanish teacher as well! Nidia is great.. I will be learning much over the next few weeks! hope all is well for everyone reading this!

much love,


Friday, June 17, 2011

a bit of an update

Just after i completed the last blog session, a fellow trainee and i went out east of town and found some wild monkeys! it was great.. they swung from branch to branch trying to follow us only to satisfy their own curiosity. in order to find these guys we had to crawl down into a dried up river and walk for a bit.. we found a yellow snake a little longer than the length of my leg and the thickest part of him was about the size of my lower leg... walking only 10 minutes in one direction from my pueblo i am able to be completely surrounded by nature!.. spanish classes are going well.. little by little i am learning and i think within a few more months ill feel comfortable trying to start up conversations that are slightly more complex than the typical ice breakers..

our garden has started to grow and we are going to be transplanting tomatoes and peppers this weekend!.. our youth group is coming along great and we are getting ready to do a market study to find out the demand for our mango pineapple jam.. tomorrow morning we are headed to masaya to hike a volcano and then have lunch.. i still have not made it to the pacific coast but im sure that is around the corner.. looking over lake nicaragua is quite the site as well.. you can definately tell what a beautiful city managua used to be..

i am getting to know all of my fellow aggies better as well.. i think we have a pretty good group! the last 5 weeks i have been in La Paz.. it is great but i cant wait for next week!.. i am headed to a small rural community in matagalpa.. apparently i am going to be in the mountains.. i am going there with 5 other trainees to learn about technical agriculture skills.. i know one of the main projects we will be doing is building more efficient stoves for women who would like to start a business selling bread or other food.. we will be building them with current volunteers and they are made of dirt, horse shit, and a few other random ingredients!.. also we will be working on making drip irrigation systems.. im sure there is much more but that will be part of the surprise.. next friday we have our site fair,... where all the volunteers present available sites and we choose our top 5 or 6... the following monday we find out where we will be placed for the next 2 years.. then in week 8 we take off individually to our sites to meet our new host families! so although things have started to slow down, there are still many things on the plate for the next few weeks..

coming down i knew i was just going to tell the peace corps to put me as rural as possible and hopefully in the mountains.. turns out i have had a slight change of heart.. although i would like to be rural, the grammer is terrible and i know that my already broken spanish would have slim chances of improving.. also all of these other aggies are wanting to be in the mountains.. so although there is still a strong possibility i could be in the mountains, i could just as easily be placed in the hottest part of nicaragua... being chinandega or leon.. i do not know how close to the beach an ag volunteer can be but i can hope for the best.. also esteli is an absolutely gorgeous place that i could find myself quite content. i guess ill know in a few weeks.

all of my trainees love the fact that it takes about 12 hours for my mustache to grow in so now i, along with a few other trainees, have a mustace ready to start curling over my top lip any time now.. everyone has either gotten a buzz cut or a short haircut since we have arrived.. there are suprisingly still some nicas with long hair.. much of our youth group loves the song {in da club) by 50 cent.. ha.. so remembering my middle school days they were extremely impressed when i rapped most the song to them.. same goes for marvin gaye´s song (sexual healing) and anything by celine dion or michael jackson.. ha.. many of the kids love their hollister outfits just like thoses in the states..

the last few weeks have been great.. i am playing more games with my family and we have been talking all about our pasts. i have taught them to dance to a few bob marley songs that i brought down.. they love bob ha.. and they have taught me to act like i know how to dance! all in all it has been a month i couldnt trade for anything..

a few weeks back i went to bed around 930 not feeling the greatest.. i figured everything would be fine in the morning so i tried to sleep .. around midnight i found myself with nothing but a headlamp and underwear on trying to unlock the back door so that i could vomit up the goat soup that i had for lunch.. ha .. in the process of regurgitating the soup and gallo pinto i had for dinner i was alerted by my stomach that we had an emergency on the other end of body.. after doing the same thing in reverse order in the morning, i skipped classes the next day and slept the whole day away in our hammock.. looking back now that mental break from class couldnt have come at a better time.. sure i have great days.. and there are also days when i wonder if i am even able to learn the language.. there are days when i become frustrated becuase we are doing more team building activities and there are days that i couldnt feel more blessed (which are most days)! there are days when i am discouraged and wonder what difference can i make here.. and there are days  i wonder if these people want help.. with all that i know i am only a trainee for now and i have a long ways to go.. the one thing that is certain thus far is that when i sit back and examine the big picture, i couldnt feel any luckier to have the opportunity to be apart of an organization that has the sole purpose of promoting friendship and peace with people around the world.

hope everyone is doing well and ill try to get back on this after returning from tech days in matagalpa!

much love,